31 January 2013

Painting French Murals...a job that feels like a vacation! (Part 1)

I recently began what is certainly my favorite mural job, ever: I am designing and painting scenes of traditional French life with a focus on food and wine, at our favorite local French restaurant. I had stopped doing murals, several years ago, in favor of spending time on my paintings for our gallery, as well as painting new needlepoint designs for my wholesale business KSH Needlepoint Collections. However, when our friend, Chef Philippe Rispoli, asked me about doing murals for his charming boulangerie and bistro, I simply could not resist.

I lucked out because Philippe started out as a huge fan of Jack's paintings. He currently owns two of them and is talking about having a show of Jack's works this summer, at the restaurant. He only found out later that I paint murals.
Chef Philippe Rispoli
Philippe's PB Boulangerie Bistro is located just 20 minutes from our house, in Wellfleet (well, 40 minutes in the summer, but so worth the drive). We originally met him, after we moved to Cape Cod, when friends told us we simply had to try the outstanding food the chef prepares there. The very first time we ate at PB, we went back into the open kitchen to congratulate the chef and have had a growing friendship, ever since.  I love this video interview with Chef Philippe:
Philippe grew up outside of Lyon, the gastronomic capitol of France, and cooked there for many years before moving to the United States. He has a stellar résumé, beginning at age 14, eventually cooking with the great Paul Bocuse in Lyon, and then with Daniel Boulud, in this country. Discussions with Philippe about Lyon and his favorite thoughts about that part of France, led to the various concepts for my murals. In addition, I have looked at lots of photos and books about the Lyon and Beaujolais regions of France. Probably most importantly, I am also relying on my own love affair with France and everything French.

I am having so much fun creating pictures of typical daily life in France, that I almost feel as if I am there on vacation. My soul is definitely on the other side of the Atlantic this week! While it's not as good as really being there, this job has been brightening my winter days on Cape Cod.

Basically, I am writing a story with pictures. While sketching out my concepts, I am making up people I would like to meet and buy food from at the local market - and I'm putting lots of my favorite foods into that market. I am watching a "guignol" puppet show with cute French kids, and admiring Philippe's French black cocker spaniel. In my imagination, I am looking at the rolling hills of beaujolais, covered everywhere with vineyards and dotted with charming little towns nestled in those hillsides. I am sipping wine at a sidewalk café. In short, I have been creating an imaginary French town where I would like to live, and putting in all my new friends and neighbors, from the town butcher to a chic young woman with an Hermès birkin bag.

For starters, here are what my original concepts looked like - done on tracing paper, so that I could see  graph paper through it. The graph grid has made it easier to transfer the small sketches to life-size drawings on heavy paper, which will be taken to the restaurant when I start to transfer the designs onto the walls. Painting will be the last (and longest) part of the process.
The wall devoted to wine - in barrels, wooden cases and bottles for tasting.
This walls depicts the cityscape of Lyon, which lies at the junction of the Rhône & Saône rivers. It includes a péniche - a river barge, typical of the city.
Vieux Lyon is the old part of the city. I have included a boulanger (baker) and a chef, as well as as an organ grinder.
A scene typical of the countryside surrounding Lyon, with a fois gras duck, pigs & the famous cows from Charolles, who produce divine beef for Paul Bocuse, and restaurants all over France. The Roman ruins and vineyards are also common sights.
The Place du Marché, with everyone from Philippe's mother, who in real life, makes homemade jams for the restaurant... to the fish seller offering American lobster (my nod to Cape Cod!)

I have been working on the full-scale drawings for a week now, and am almost finished with them. Then I literally have one month while the restaurant is closed, to paint everything in place. Wish me luck, and come along with me on my "journey"!

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